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Revolution 1.13 "The Song Remains the Same" Review: Doesn't Hit All the High Notes

     This week’s episode of Revolution, “The Song Remains the Same,” was written by the team of Monica Owusu-Breen and Matt Pitts and directed by John F. Showalter. I found the episode was somewhat uneven, and I particularly found the usually strong female leads were not written as well or as consistently as I’ve come to expect. This was surprising coming from the same writing team who gave us the strong fall finale episode, “Nobody’s Fault But Mine.” The episode did contain some major reveals, however, and another very strong performance from Giancarlo Esposito. Showalter does his usual great job with both the action sequences and emotional scenes, resulting in a number of exceptional performances.
     Esposito gets to showcase almost every facet of Tom Neville in the course of the episode. The opening scene between Flynn (Colm Feore) and Neville is a tour de force as they jockey for top dog position with Monroe (David Lyons). Lyons deserves high praise for his very subtle reactions to the salvos exchanged between his two men. Flynn, of course, is every one of Neville’s flashbacks to the boss who fired and humiliated him before the blackout. He even says to Flynn, “You’re just a civilian with a smug smile and a cheap suit.” Flynn is quick to establish his own superiority by pointing out that he’s actually wearing a very expensive suit, exposing Neville’s position as a poser of status.
    The scene between Neville and Jason (J.D. Pardo) is another great scene. Jason wants an explanation from his father, and Neville tells him, “It’s a hard world, and if you’re weak, you’re dead.” He didn’t want his son to be like he was. He was hard on his son, so that he would survive. He wanted him to become brutal. Neville uses Julia (Kim Raver) against Jason because he knows that Jason isn’t the brutal killer he wanted him to be. Jason proves his loyalty to the rebels by deceiving Neville into revealing his plan. While it is easily believable that Neville would deceive Jason, I think it is also very likely that he was sincere about why he was so hard on Jason.
    The episode also shows Neville’s more brutal side as he baits and finally kills Nicholas. He has come a long way from the browbeaten civil servant, however. He knows that he has to get Julia away from Monroe. He knows Monroe won’t hesitate to punish the both of them for his own failure to return with the nukes. I’ve very much enjoyed Raver’s performance of Julia, but her first scene in the episode seems completely at odds with her previous appearances as the calm, strong woman behind the man. Her breakdown over having to keep up appearances in the face of lying about Jason seemed out of character to me. She was much more the character I’d come to expect when she calmly tells the women she’s entertaining to “Get out of my house” when Neville suddenly shows up. She’s suddenly more willing to try to maintain their status even in the face of Neville telling her that it’s over. That was the Lady Macbeth I’d come to enjoy. I can only anticipate that Julia’s days are numbered, however, as Raver has the lead in an NCIS spinoff pilot that will almost certainly go to series.
    Elizabeth Mitchell also gives an outstanding performance in the episode, but her character seemed to be all over the map emotionally. It does seem that Rachel is clearly working against Monroe, but it didn’t seem at all consistent for her to put the best interests of the group – to get information from Neville – behind revenge. Once again, Charlie (Tracy Spiridakos) is forced to be the adult and take her mother to task. The relationship between Charlie and Rachel makes an interesting parallel to the Jason/Neville dynamic. Rachel is distraught that Charlie has more in common with the more brutal Miles (Billy Burke) than herself, interpreting Charlie’s prioritizing the needs of the group ahead of revenge for her family as a failing. But in both cases, Rachel and Neville fail to really understand that their children have grown up in an entirely different world, and interestingly, both Jason and Charlie seem to have reached the same place. Both are fighting for the greater good.
    There’s a nice little moment that illustrates the gulf between the generations and is also a quintessential Kripke moment. When Miles warns Jason not to go near his father, he tells him that if he does he’ll “bash his little ‘boy band’ face in.” Tellingly, Jason turns to Charlie to ask what a “boy band” is. He knows that Miles means it as an insult – as Kripke, the huge Zepplin fan would – but Jason has no context to know what a boy band even is. This is a nice contrast to Neville’s having been enjoying listening to Lionel Ritchie earlier in the episode and promising to educate the soldier with him about music – something denied to his own son. Boy bands would be a part of the safe childhood of before the blackout, before children had to be soldiers first.
    Miles tells Rachel that there are no “good” guys. And in many ways, he could be talking about all the characters we’ve met so far. All of them have done what they need to do – or think they need to do to survive.
    The big reveal of the episode is a huge payoff in the mytharc of the story, however. We learn that the power went out because of a nano-technology that Rachel helped develop and that somehow malfunctioned. Aaron (Zac Orth) is determined that they can fix it. The computer chips are the size of a virus and were only designed to absorb electricity and replicate. Of course, none of this explains what could have gone wrong – because that seems to be what they are doing – and it doesn’t explain why the pendants allow the electricity to work.
    My biggest issue with the episode, however, is with the end. Why are Rachel and Aaron going off to the Tower alone? Why can’t any of the others go? Why is it necessarily a suicide mission as Rachel seems to think by telling Charlie there is no hope they will see each other again? None of this makes any sense. It does make sense to try to get the power back on, so why not send a small group – one that includes all of our principle characters? And what happened to Miles assembling his old team? Is Hudson to be the only one? After being patient through such a long hiatus, I feel like we need to be rewarded with tighter story-telling. What did you think of the episode? Let me know in the comments.

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